Our Catholic Life Begins
The Catholic life of a post-abortive man reconnecting on a deeper spiritual level. Stories of Abortion healing from men and women.
The Catholic life of a post-abortive man reconnecting on a deeper spiritual level. Stories of Abortion healing from men and women.
Much of what brought me to the Catholic Church was out of love for my Catholic wife. Read my conversion story below.
What expands my faith are the different faith-based organizations to which I volunteer my time and energy
My hope is this website will inspire you in your catholic life and abortion healing.
ROAD TO CONVERSION
Baptist Born and Bred
In some ways, my journey of faith and religion began in March of 1999, the day my father died. That event brought to mind age-old questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? But I also began to wonder why I should want to continue living. Someday everyone I love will die and I will be alone, so why continue to live in this world of pain, sadness, and suffering? Be assured those were in no manner suicidal thoughts, but simply feelings of loss, of emptiness. Ever since 1992, when I had been raised to the degree of Master Mason, the fourth generation of my family to do so, my father and I became inseparable. We attended lodge meetings at least three times a month and constantly talked about lodge business and activities, Freemasonry brought us closer.
Before I became a Mason we didn’t have too much to say to each other. I am grateful that our parents taught my older brother and sister and me to say, “I love you.” My father had no problem expressing his love for us, but still, he was distant, at least from me. The first time I saw my father cry was when his sister died. The only time I saw him angry was when I refused to study with my math tutor during a full hour for which he had to pay, and even then each slap of his belt on my body was painless. He didn’t seem to know how to whip me. My cries of feigned pain, I imagine, hurt him more than his belt hurt me. Whippings were not the way my father commanded respect and obedience from his children, he simply gave us a certain look.
After I joined Freemasonry that all changed. We traveled to conventions together sharing ideas about how to help the lodge improve. Together we complained about this or that member of the lodge who failed to fulfill his duties. We became friends and brothers, but as our friendship grew my father’s health weakened. His youthful walk turned into a shuffling struggle. He suffered a stroke, heart attack, and bypass surgery, but still, he attended every lodge meeting and went to church on Sunday.
Growing up Baptist we three children learned to dress appropriately for church. Every Easter we received a new suit or dress in my sister’s case, our Sunday best. I remember sitting between my mother and father, Momma occasionally raising her voice as the Holy Spirit moved her. I learned to lean away toward Daddy to avoid her flailing arms. At the end of the service Daddy would sing along with the choir, “God bless you and guide you wherever you go, to tell of a savior whom sinners my know. Keep working for Jesus ‘til the close of the day. God bless you and keep you always.” The rumbling of his voice made me feel safe and close to God.
Our entire family was Baptist as far as I knew. My grandfather, on my mother’s side, was pastor of New Era Baptist Church for many years. The church was a big part of our family life. Mom and Dad both made it clear, not so much with words, but with actions, how important church, God, and Jesus were. After getting married Momma left Grandpa’s church to join Daddy’s church, Mt. Zion Baptist. Although Mt. Zion was not a foot-stompin', tambourine shaking kind of church, we had our share of good old gospel music. Our pastor would often ask, “Do you know you’re saved?” It seemed everyone held up their hands. I often wondered if everyone with their hands up in the air knew they were saved. I didn’t hold up my hand. I didn’t know if I was saved. I didn’t understand how Jesus would save me despite myself. There had to be more to salvation; otherwise, when Jesus returned would he judge only by who believes and who does not believe? What about the actions of my life? What had I done for Jesus? Did I feed the hungry? Did I clothe the naked? Did I give a drink to the thirsty? Did I visit the sick? And if I didn’t, did it matter? Jesus said it did, but should I raise my hand anyway?
At a crucial point on my journey as I considered leaving Mt. Zion, I sought the guidance of the new pastor of the Baptist church my grandfather helped to establish some fifty years before.
He related a story to me about an Asian monk he and his young daughter had met. The little girl asked if the man would go to heaven to be with God. The pastor explained that because the monk had not accepted Jesus he would not be saved. The pastor hated to say this to his daughter because he knew the monk was a kind and good man. The pastor went on to explain to me that if one accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior he will be saved. “Even someone who lives a terribly sinful life will be saved?” I asked. “ Yes,” he replied, asking “Do you believe the scriptures?” “Yes, I do,” I said to the pastor. But how will we be saved? This I asked of God.
“Once saved always saved” was the idea I couldn’t get out of my mind. After “shopping around” for a church home I decided to join a non-denominational Christian Community Church. There I met people of various backgrounds, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and at least one Lutheran. This had to be what Jesus meant when he prayed for the unity of all those who believe. For about one year I served as an usher before finally joining the choir. I enjoyed singing the praises to the Lord, and the pastor preached the Word of God with such love and devotion. Three years later I began to question the purpose of our church. We had no creed or declaration of belief. We believed in Jesus Christ, yes we believed in loving and helping our neighbor, but something was missing. We seemed to embrace a formless, general kind of Christianity with little room for discussion of doctrine and very little structure. I soon realized that there could be no talk of doctrine because this would cause division among the various backgrounds making up our congregation. Our Christianity was a feel-good Christianity that needed to be so inclusive that any talk that might lead beyond the surface of Christianity, could disrupt the harmony of the congregation. The surface wasn’t enough for me; I needed to know what I believed.
Catholic? No way
In the meantime, my wife, Rebecca, a Catholic convert since her teens, had returned to the Catholic Church and the Catholic life. I never really knew her reasons for leaving the Church, but after a trip to Turkey, she came back a changed person. Every Sunday she went to church. Occasionally she even went to church during the week. She started going to church on Friday nights for what I later learned was Eucharistic Adoration. Now that she had returned to the Church, I learned
we had to be married in the Church so that she could receive Holy Communion. This of course was all very strange to me, but being the dutiful husband I agreed to take the steps necessary to dissolve my previous marriage while Rebecca sought an annulment of hers. Question after question from the Metropolitan Tribunal about the most embarrassing failure of my life had to be painstakingly answered. Strangers were going to read this and judge my failed marriage as being valid or not. How dare they decide whether or not I was married! I hated it and I hated my wife for asking me to do it. After several weeks I received word that the Vatican had declared my marriage dissolved, but it took some months longer for my wife's marriage to be annulled. Then we were married at the chapel of the Bishop’s Cathedral and Rebecca could now receive Holy Communion.
Although the process of dissolution of my marriage had been hard, it had a profound impression on me. What was marriage? When asked by the Pharisees, in the Gospel of Mark, if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus says, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Jesus says that no one can separate such a joining, and he goes on to say, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. I had to ask myself what the meaning of this statement was. I had been divorced and remarried, but nothing had ever been said to me about this declaration on marriage made by Jesus himself. As a Protestant I thought it proper to be married by a minister, to be married before the eyes of God and man, and yet all I needed for the divorce was civil acknowledgment. In light of Jesus’ statement, something felt wrong. The church was concerned about performing the marriage ceremony but ignored the consequences of remarriage. The Catholic Church on the other hand said differently. The question became whether or not the first marriage was valid, not whether or not I had been married. Marriage was more than just a contract between partners.
Having been raised to go to church I believed strongly in a family worshipping together. I realized my wife preferred to attend her church, but hoped we could alternate and visit each other’s church. However, Rebecca would not even walk into a Protestant church unless it was for a funeral or wedding. She would not attend Mass in English if one in Latin was available. My wife was a religious snob. Once we had a very heated discussion over her refusal to visit my church. This was no small barrier to my attempts at our worshipping together.
Feeling frustrated and unsure what to do to bring us together I decided to take an introduction
to religion class at a nearby university. During the class, we touched on all the major religions, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and of course Christianity. While studying I slowly realized that all religions have the same purpose. Since the beginning of time, when man first began to think beyond himself he started asking questions like: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? These questions were my own.
Questions that all lead to the ultimate question of man’s desire to seek, find and dwell with God. While reflecting on my Christian faith I realized that I didn’t know what I believed or more importantly why I believed it. On the next stop along my path, I decided to learn about the Reformation and do a general study of Protestantism. I learned that the Reformation started long before Martin Luther and that those who wanted reform were not originally desirous of dividing the Church, but rather “reforming” the Church. After deciding it would be appropriate to study the Reformation from the other side, I was surprised to learn that there were people who remained within the Church while at the same time calling and working for reform.
As for Protestantism I soon began to realize how many different Christian denominations there are in the world. It boggled my mind that upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 had come into existence since Martin Luther was excommunicated. With that many denominations, that many differences of opinion, how could anyone choose the right one to join? Ever since the Reformation churches have split off to start other churches and over 500 years that’s a lot of churches. I learned that the Catholic Church claimed to be the Church founded by Jesus Christ, but so did the Eastern Orthodox Churches. I also discovered that several Protestant churches made the same claim, but that was too far-fetched for me. Because my wife was Catholic I chose to start there and find out why she was so devoted to the Catholic Church.
My first step was to attend a series of talks given at my wife’s church. The theme of the series was, “How the Catholic Church and other churches are similar, and how they are different.” Most of the talks were led by the Pastor, Monsignor Joseph Schaedel.
After Rev. Schaedel covered how the Catholic Church and other churches are alike we then discussed the differences. Mary, the real presence, praying to a saint and the toughest one of all, confession to a priest. What I needed to know was what, as a Christian, I would have to give up to become Catholic. The answer was…nothing. I would not have to give up anything, but I would receive so much more.
This gift of Grace, my conversion, can best be summed up like this:
At one time I stood in a lighted room seeing what I believed to be all there was to see, yet realizing that something was missing. Studying the history and teaching of the Catholic Church opened the door to a hallway that began my journey. The more I learned the further down the hallway I walked until I noticed another light. At this point I had only been inquiring, hoping to gain some insight as to my wife’s deep devotion to the Catholic Church. Shouldn’t one be devoted to Jesus rather than to an organization?
The Catholic Church taught about authority, this was the key. Don’t all Christians believe that Christ set up his Church and chose the apostles to continue his ministry following his return to the Father? What were his intentions after those he had chosen died? In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” -Matt 16:19
What did this mean? In the Gospel according to John, Jesus breathed on the apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” -John 20:22-23
Authority! Jesus had not only passed on this ministry to his apostles but his authority as well! His Authority to forgive sins! Was this right? Was I reading this scripture correctly? Jesus couldn’t lie, and if my understanding was right, could it be that Jesus meant for his authority to die out with the apostles? No, of course not. Why give such authority to men and have it exist only during the first century of the Church he founded?
With this revelation, the new light at the other end of the hallway began to outshine the old.
This brighter light was more clear and I could see things I had never seen before, but still, I was afraid. I had no intention of becoming Catholic. My God, not one of those arrogant, know-it-alls. Even though I had joined a non-denominational Christian church I was Baptist to the bone. Catholic? No, never. I stood in the darkness of the hallway afraid to go forward, afraid to go back.
I knew I could not remain in the hallway. I had to make a decision. Going back I would feel like a hypocrite and pretending to profess something I did not believe was out of the question. I had to face the obstacles, those things that were alien to the experience of my life. The first was the notion that the Catholic Church was “the white man’s church.” I learned about St. Moses the Black from Ethiopia, St Anthony the Great of Thebes, St Augustine of Hippo (present-day Algeria), and his mother St. Monica. There was Pope St. Victor I, Pope St. Gelasius I, Pope St. Miliades I, all popes from the region of North Africa. I learned about St. Martin Porres, the first Black American Saint, SS. Felicitas and Perpetua, and Pierre Toussaint. These were only some of the people of African descent I met along my journey that contributed to Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church.
The second obstacle was the Eucharist. I had never considered whether or not I received the body and blood of Christ at communion. To eat the body and blood of Christ was impossible. Communion is a symbol of our unity with each other and with Christ, nothing more.
I was familiar with the Gospel verses of Jesus saying, “This is my body…this cup is the new covenant in My blood…Do this in remembrance of me.” Symbol? Well…, what about John 6 where Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Six times Jesus refers to the need of those who believe in him to consume his flesh and his blood. Jesus said the bread from heaven was his flesh and that, “…my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Again I wondered if I was reading this correctly? Am I missing a word? Nowhere did I read the word “symbol,” and Jesus did not explain as most of his disciples walked away. Jesus cannot lie. God can do anything. Jesus is God. Jesus said, “This is my Body…”
It would be wrong to leave out a very important part of my conversion. Freemasonry was a big part of my life, a part of who I was. There are many negative things said about Masonry,
although in my experience I cannot say I ever found anything negative about its moral teachings. A Mason is to be an honest man, a believer in God, (the god of his choice), a good citizen obeying the laws of the land and helping his fellow man. Freemasonry taught me how to be a responsible man. The Catholic Church, long an adversary of Freemasonry, has taught that Masonry teaches religious indifferentism, that is to say, it makes no difference what religion one professed as long as one is a believer in God. I realized that this idea that one religion is as good as another conflicted with my belief as a Christian. As a Christian one must believe that the truth of Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God, the Word of God. Although I believed Freemasonry to be an honorable and worthwhile organization, I could not reconcile what I knew as a Christian with what Masonry professed. Leaving my Masonic lodge was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. When I told one of my closest friends, a member of the lodge, I intended to become Catholic and leave the lodge he accused me of turning my back on my heritage, but I knew I had found my heritage.